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James Alexander Gordon

Broadcaster

Broadcaster

Born: February 10, 1936; Died: August 18, 2014.

James Alexander Gordon, who has died, aged 78, was simply one of the most famous Scottish voices in broadcasting.

To those with no interest in football, this might seem surprising. Every Saturday afternoon during the football season, he read the final scores at 5pm. "I always tried to make that five minutes really interesting for the listener," he explained.

Unlikely as that sounded to the uninitiated, for football fans across Britain, and further afield, it makes perfect sense.

If you didn't know your team's result at that point, you would know it almost instantly he began reading the fixture out. A flat or downward tone on the first team meant a home defeat, an expectant pause indicated a draw, and a cheery uptone meant victory for the hosts.

As news of his death spread, a common reaction from fans was to say, with the self-deprecating humour of the football follower, "I loved the way he said Partick Thistle nil."

Born in Edinburgh in 1936, Gordon lost his mother, who died in childbirth, and although he had a happy and loving upbringing in an adoptive family, he was struck by polio in at the age of just six months, leaving him paralysed in his early teenage years. He needed braces to walk for several years afterwards and always had a limp.

However it was a formative experience. He remembered in later years how listening to the radio lying in a hospital bed had shaped his ambitions. "I spent a lot of time in bed and apart from visiting friends all I had was the radio" he said. "It was a great friend to me, really."

Listening to the radio, and also to RAF war veterans recuperating in the same hospital enabled him to overcome an early speech impediment, which undoubtedly also helped him establish the broadcasting voice which served him so well in later life.

He had studied music, and played the piano and clarinet, and later worked in music publishing. He collaborated with the likes of German entertainers Bert Kaempfert and James Last, before becoming a broadcaster.

He attributed his success at reading football results to a sense of rhythm gained through music.

Gordon claimed he had told his father at the age of eight that he would one day read out the results, after seeing his frustration at the way they were delivered - too monotone and too fast for people checking their pools coupons to see if they might have won a life-changing sum, in the days before the national lottery.

He got his break in 1972 when a chance meeting with a BBC producer helped him get a job reading the news. He took over reading the football results two years later, and quickly developed his more musical, engaging style of delivery, which he described simply: "For instance, if Arsenal have lost, I'm sorry for them and if Manchester United won, I'm happy for them."

For 40 years, in the days when people were still likely to turn to radio or television to learn the scores, he came on every week, in various guises - TVs Grandstand, Radio 2 and later Radio 5 Live, always preceded by Hubert Bath's Out of the Blue March.

He had auditioned for the corporation after learning that its head of presentation Jimmy Kingsbury wanted to to feature more announcers with regional accents.

His gentle Scottish lilt was instantly recognisable, utterly reliable.He claimed never to have read a score out wrongly, and only ever missed one programme - when, stuck on the motorway, he was forced himself to tune in to hear the results.

Perhaps surprisingly, Gordon, known affectionately as Jag, had no particular football allegiance himself.

It was perhaps fitting that he retired when he did, in July 2013, as the explosion in channels showing live football as well as the fact results were instantly available via mobile phones and the internet, was rendering his role sadly ever more peripheral.

The reason for his retirement - he was suffering from throat cancer and had to have his larynx removed - was particularly cruel for someone whose voice had been his profession.

It was that cancer which claimed his life this week, leading to tributes from professional footballers and broadcasters alike as well as an outpouring of nostalgia from fans of the game, for may of whom he had been a feature of Saturday afternoons from childhood.

He is survived by his wife, Julia, son David and two granddaughters.

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